#BAMysteryTrip: The surprise of a lifetime
Read on to find out how you could be jetting off to the same destination...
I’m packing for a weekend away – with a difference. Laid out on the bed in front of me a suitcase containing just about everything I own. Normally I pack light, but that’s not easy when you have no idea where you’re going.
You see, I’ve handed all control over to the lovely folk at British Airways, who are flying me and my wife to a mystery destination. We know very little, other than the time of our flight and that it’s in Europe, and it takes all the willpower in the world (and then some) not to ruin the surprise. So bags finally packed, and butterflies swirling in our stomachs, we hop in the car and head to the BAi360 in Brighton where all – we’re told – will be revealed.
On the drive from London, we take turns at guessing where we might be going, looking up the weather in each destination. “Portugal would be nice…” Sarah says, while I have a feeling it’s Italy. My phone vibrates with a Facebook notification – I’ve asked my friends for their guesses, and my mum has commented: “Aberdeen”. Oh dear. Much as I’d love to visit my homeland, I had my heart set on somewhere a little warmer. A few minutes later, my auntie guesses New York. Bless. Her lack of geographical smarts give us a little chuckle.
Soon, we arrive at the i360. The weather is glorious, blue sky for days, and the sun just about blinds us as it bounces off the sea. We follow the signs for #BAMysteryTrip, and are greeted by BA cabin crew in all their finery who take us past the queue of tourists and snap some pictures of us before the big reveal. Finally, it’s time.
The butterflies in my stomach have grown significantly and are doing some rather impressive backflips as I’m handed the envelope containing our tickets. Sarah films me as I open it and discover we’re flying Club World to… say whaaaaat? my eyes go over the words again, and again, trying to make sense of what I’m reading. New York? We’re going to New York!
I look at the BA cabin crew, stunned. “But… but… New York isn’t in Europe?” I stutter, suddenly doubting my own geography. “Well, we had to throw in a wildcard!” chuckles Harriet, BA’s global PR manager. I look at Sarah, whose face is a mixture of surprise and fear. Suddenly, I realise why. She doesn’t have an ESTA for the US, and we won’t be able to fly without it. She’s on the website applying as we climb 138 metres aboard the world’s tallest moving observation tower, and while I enjoy 360-degree views across Brighton and the South Downs, Sarah is frantically entering her passport details. Thankfully, within 10 minutes she gets the green light, and by the time we’re back on solid ground we’re all set.
We drive to Gatwick’s South Terminal in a daze – hardly believing what’s just happened – and before we know it we’re relaxing in the BA departure lounge, planning what is sure to be an unforgettable weekend. I open up Facebook on my phone to tell my friends where we’re off to – and apologise to my auntie. Who knew she’d be the one to guess correctly!?
As BA flight 2273 leaves the tarmac, we’re giddy with excitement. And it hasn’t worn off by the time we land at JFK. Not even the queue at passport control can dampen our mood, or the traffic coming into Manhattan.
It’s late by the time we arrive at our hotel, the stunning Knickerbocker at 6 Time Square, and we’ve been on the go for what feels like weeks, but we can’t resist checking out the rooftop bar so we head up to St Cloud for a pick me up. The view is breathtaking; the cocktails to die for. Neither of us can quite believe our luck. What is my life?
Despite the best of intentions to stay up and make the most of the city that never sleeps, tiredness finally gets the better of us. We might be literally inches from the hustle and bustle of Time Square, but with the curtains drawn you’d never know it, and it’s not long before we drift off into the most delicious sleep.
We start the next morning bright and early with breakfast at Charlie Palmer. Full to the brim with bagels, eggs and coffee, we make our way to the subway and ride the train to Coney Island. The last time we were in New York – 10 years previously – we had the best time here, and promised we would come back.
It might be the end of October, but it is scorching. Sarah and I take off our shoes and socks and paddle our feet on Brighton Beach before heading to Luna Park.
The air smells faintly of pumpkin spice – they love Halloween here – and it feels strange to be thinking of ghouls when it’s got to be at least 25 degrees. We play skee ball for a while in the arcade, and I somehow manage to convince my caption cautious wife to come on the log flume with me – an escapade that leaves me soaked. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long to dry, and we head to Brooklyn in search of lunch.
Our grumbling bellies take us to Kelloggs Diner on Brooklyn’s Metropolitan Avenue and sink our teeth into a Hero sandwich the size of small submarine. Satisfied, we head north, and spend a couple of hours wandering around trendy Williamsburg before grabbing a coffee and making our way to Hurricane Point to watch the sun going down over New York’s East River. A truly magical moment which once again had me asking: what is my life?
The next morning – our last in New York – we made our way once again to Charlie Palmer to fuel up for a full day ahead. Sarah and I both opted for the American Breakfast, complete with complimentary mimosas. Sarah doesn't drink so I "had to" have both. Let's just say I was feeling rather merry for the rest of the day. Cheers!
The weather forecast didn’t look too pretty, but armed with brollies and ponchos we braved the wind and the rain for a walk along the High Line. We might have been soaked but we were happy!
We sheltered from the worst of the weather at a cafe in Chelsea, warming our bodies with hot chocolate, before shopping in downtown Manhattan for some dry socks. Seriously! After a quick bite to eat at Shake Shack, it was time to go home, so we headed back to the Knickerbocker to pick up our bags. And, just like that, it was over.
It might have been a quick weekend, but it was one we’ll never forget…
COMPETITION TIME! Do you fancy winning a trip to New York?
To be in with a chance of winning two flights to New York courtesy of our friends at British Airways, simply answer this question. HINT: the answer is in the article!
Where did Carrie’s mum think she was going on her #BAMysteryTrip?
B) Bognor Regis
Send your answer, name and contact address to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line NEW YORK. Competition closes midnight on Thursday 1 March. Terms and conditions apply.
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